So Many Things to Love about Fall

These past two weekends have been outdoorsy weekends for me. Lots of hiking and exploring new trails. One of the reasons for that is my love of fall. It’s my favorite season. During my last hike, I pondered if I could name just 5 things I love about fall. I quickly decided it’s not possible. There are so many more…how could I pick just 5??

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With that decided, I’m going to have a Top 10 List. Hopefully, I won’t leave anything out…

So, you ask, what’s so great about fall?

  1. Cool, brisk mornings that warm into pleasant afternoons (after a steaming latte, of course)latte
  2. Beautiful sunsets…love the pinks, purples, and oranges
  3. Apples–anything and everything! Mom’s homemade apple dumplings are the best!
  4. Hiking. Not only are there beautiful colored leaves, the views are that much better due to no humidity
  5. The scent of smoke in the air. Whether from a campfire or a woodstove…love it
  6. Curling up in a fleece blanket and watching a movie. Of course, there’s usually hot chocolate involved.
  7. Sweaters and comfy fleece! I’m so done with shorts and tanks. Bring on cozy-wear!
  8. Pumpkins and fall decorating and food (can I combine all of these into one??). I love orange! And how can you not like pumpkins…or iced pumpkin cookies or pumpkin spice coffee?
  9. Growing up, we called them “woolly worms.” I think they’re better known as woolly bear caterpillars.
  10. Last but not least…I’m not a huge snow fan, but I do like snow flurries. You know fall is truly here when you see a snow flurry. Old man winter has to wait his turn, but before he takes over, I’m going to enjoy all that fall has to offer.

Did I miss anything you would have added to your list? Let me know if I did!

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Winter Weather Predictor?

Are woolly worms or woolly bear caterpillars accurate predictors of winter weather? Yes, I know, a silly question as they aren’t – nothing too scientific about their coloring, but it’s still fun to guess what the composition of their red and black stripes mean.

I found an article on Organic Gardening that says the key is the length of the reddish- brown stripe in the middle – is it shorter or longer than the black on the ends? If it is shorter, the woolly bear predicts it will be a harsh winter. If it is longer, then a mild winter.

I seem to remember as a kid something to do with the length of the black on either end of the caterpillar. Can someone help me out? I thought the length of the black was correlated to the beginning and end of winter, but I don’t recall the particulars. Continue reading

Mini-Vacation

I was fortunate this week to have Thursday and Friday off. I’m happy to say I was able to head to western Maryland for some hiking and photography.

The first stop on Thursday was the Western Maryland Rail Trail. The weather wasn’t promising so we decided to take some photos along the trail before heading to Rocky Gap State Park. It was a good choice. By the time we arrived at Rocky Gap, the rain was falling quite heavily. So much for hiking. Never fear…a relaxing pedicure in the spa replaced outdoor activities. Totally worth it, too!

Friday was a 6 mile hike on the Great Allegheny Passage trail in Somerset County, Denise_Mason_Dixon_GAP_webPennsylvania. My mission – as we walked about six miles – became saving the wooly bear caterpillars that tried to cross the trail. Several cyclists were out so I’m not sure how many caterpillar lives were saved, but I did my best! (Note: I did not attempt to save any of the creepy spiders on the trail. Yuck!)

We hiked back into Maryland from Pennsylvania. Being the silly girl that I am, I called my parents while straddling the Mason-Dixon line. Yep, I had one foot in PA and one foot in MD. While I found it comical, I know that my mom was just shaking her head on the other end of the line.

Needless to say, I had a lot of fun and enjoyed the fresh air and scenery. I did miss having my bike on the GAP so I definitely want to go back and ride that section of trail. Walking through the Big Savage Mountain tunnel was pretty freaking cool! I consulted the GAP’s website – the tunnel is 3,294 feet long, which converts to 0.62 miles.

Overall, a good trip if a bit too short. Despite the rain on Thursday, Friday was a cool, crisp fall day. Hope you get a chance to get out and enjoy the fall leaves! I’m off to research the wooly bear caterpillars – want to see what might be in store for us weather-wise this winter!

Hiking Caledonia

Foilage_Trail1Today my friend Cathy and I went hiking in Caledonia State Park (southern Pennsylvania). We did one of my favorite loops. Part of the loop falls in the park, and the other part is on the Appalachian Trail. If you look at the trail layout on a map, the loop resembles a figure eight with a tail.

Mother Nature graced us with beautiful weather – temperatures were in the upper 70s and it was mostly sunny. The park was more crowded with families picnicking rather than folks hiking. No complaints from me on that one! Much to my dismay, the bugs were out and enjoying the weather as well. I think I will wake tomorrow peppered with mosquito bites. Darn it!!

The hike was a leisurely one. We took our time, stopping to take photos when Butterfly1something struck our fancy. I’ve included some of the pics I took. I used the Map My Ride app on my phone to track our progress. At the end, we totaled 8.5 miles in 3:39. Whoo hoo! Talk about burning some calories!

I treated Cathy to a birthday dinner at a mom and pop Italian restaurant when we were finished. They were busy, but we managed to snag an outdoor table where we enjoyed good company and conversation. What a great day!

Fall is Here!

And it is without a doubt that I can exclaim that! I spent yesterday and today in western Maryland at Rocky Gap State Park. We were under a frost warning for last night. I think temps were in the mid 30s today when I got out of bed. By the time we were hiking, they had only reached 40. I was very happy I threw in my fleece hat, especially since I am getting over being sick. Unfortunately, my sinuses got the best of me this fall. Ick.

The weather yesterday was miserable – as in lots of rain. No biking on the way there (or even around the park). No hiking or exploring the grounds either. We did enjoy football with a beer in the lounge. They had Fat Tire beer – my favorite on tap! Whoo hoo! I lost fantasy football, but it was fun nonetheless. After a late dinner we retired to the hot tub. It felt good to sink down into those toasty bubbles. Made my back feel better.

Today we managed to hike before the rain started. I was taking lots of photos only to realize that my Canon EOS-30D was malfunctioning. I am not happy. I’m still not sure what the problem is – something to do with the auto focus. Thankfully, I had my Canon PowerShot as a back-up. It performed perfectly! I suppose a trip to my local camera shop is in store for me. I’ve tried to take excellent care of my digital SLR. Apparently, it hasn’t been quite good enough. Doah!

Laundry calls. Oh what fun! Happy Fall (and enjoy the photo of the maple leaf)!

Feels like Fall

Well, I had a tough call to make today – bike or hike? The weather was absolutely gorgeous (as in no haze or humidity) after the rain and storms we had last night. I opted for hiking since I thought my butt would appreciate the break. Plus, hiking is a lot closer than the rail trail.

I did some writing this morning, working on the plot and hook for a romance story. Once I got the first draft completed, I packed my gear and hoped that the rest of the local population didn’t have the same idea as me. I was scared when I arrived: the main parking lots were full. Good thing I had planned to park further out. I can be so smart some times – that parking lot was mostly empty. Whoo hoo!

Three hours later, my legs had covered almost eight miles. Go me! I saw a variety of wildlife – deer (one nearly walked up to me), two woodpeckers, bunches of chipmunks, and way too many spiders. After Googling, I believe the woodpeckers were Pileated Woodpeckers.

I had a blast – the temps were in the low 70s on the mountain with a cool breeze, and I really didn’t run into many other hikers. The trails were not packed and were in good condition despite the recent rains we had.

Now that I am back home, time for some more writing. Well, that may turn into more reading. I feel Gunmetal Magic calling my name!